He was a leader and a winner, and most importanty a Winnipegger.
Alvin Brian McDonald was all of those things and so much more. The Winnipeg Jets’ first goal-scorer and team captain died overnight at the age of 82.
Born on Feb. 18, 1936 “Ab” went on to play junior hockey for the St. Boniface Canadiens of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League that lost to the Barrie Flyers in the 1953 Memorial Cup Championship Final that was played in Winnipeg and Brandon.
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound winger graduated to the OHA junior ranks with St. Catherines and spent his first two professional seasons with Rochester before joining the Montreal Canadiens in the spring of 1958.
The Habs won the Stanley Cup that year, and again in 1959 and 1960. And McDonald sipped champagne for the fourth straight year in 1961 with Chicago, after being traded to the Blackhawks by Montreal the previous summer.
McDonald played a total of 14 NHL seasons with six different teams. Besides Montreal and Chicago, McDonald also enjoyed his time in “Original Six” cities Detroit and Boston. Following expansion, his hockey travels took him to Pittsburgh where he became the first ever captain of the NHL Penguins and then St. Louis.
In 1972, McDonald came home to help launch the World Hockey Association Winnipeg Jets.
He told 680 CJOB in a past interview that questions quickly began circling.
“Is the league going to last, is it going to go?”
“The training came and we had to go out to Kenora, and they had all the windows boarded up so nobody could see anything, it was kind of interesting.”
McDonald scored the Jets’ first-ever goal on Oct. 12, 1972, in a 6-4 win over the Raiders in New York and help lead the team to an appearance in the inaugural Avco Cup Final — which ended in a five-game loss to the New England Whalers.
“As a Winnipegger, he made this city proud by also playing 14 seasons in the NHL and capturing four Stanley Cups. His reputation as an outstanding teammate carried over into his life after hockey,” True North Sports + Entertainment Chairman and Winnipeg Jets Governor Mark Chipman said in a statement.
“Off the ice, Mr. McDonald always represented our hockey community proudly… he was quick with a smile and willing to engage in a talk about the game he love.”
McDonald would play one more season before retiring at the end of the 1973-74 season. But he would remain an unabashed supporter of Winnipeg and hockey, while volunteering his time to a number of causes.
“There was a good bunch of guys that got together, and worked together as a team and it was good, it was a good hockey club. But not as good as they had later on here, but they played pretty well,” said McDonald.
The former Winnipeg Jets captain was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 — the same year the 1.0 version of the Jets left for Phoenix. But he never gave up hope the NHL would return.
“I was one of the guys that was preaching all of the time that the team will be back before you know it.”
“We’re going to have a club here before you know it and I said that to everybody. A lot of people didn’t believe me and I said hey, see, I was a believer. “
McDonald was 82 years old. He passed away at his St. James residence.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years Pat, his five children, along with seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.